Anti-Apartheid News

The AAM accused the British government of allowing white Rhodesian police to intimidate voters in Zimbabwe and undermine the elections there. This issue also featured protests against the British Lions rugby team’s plans to tour South Africa. In a feature article it showed how the recently elected Thatcher government was using the settlement in Zimbabwe as an excuse for strengthening its ties with the apartheid government and warned against the threat posed by South Africa’s armed forces to the front-line states.  It reported on a conference on Southern African political prisoners organised by SATIS and carried an appeal by SWAPO women’s leader Lucia Hamutenya for action to secure the release of gaoled activists in Namibia.

AA News welcomed the victory of the parties of the Patriotic Front in the Zimbabwean elections, and called for a stepping up of campaigns in support of the freedom struggle in South Africa and Namibia and against British collaboration with the apartheid government. It highlighted the campaign to end British uranium imports from Namibia, under a contract signed by the Labour Government. A centrespread focused on South Africa’s illegal occupation of Namibia and listed British companies that exploited the country’s rich mineral resources. The issue celebrated the 25th anniversary of the formation of SACTU (South African Congress of Trade Unions) and reported on the campaign by Swansea University students to stop South African companies recruiting there.

Under the headline ‘Freedom for Nelson Mandela’, this issue reported on the circulation inside South Africa of the Sunday Post newspaper’s petition calling for Mandela’s release. It featured a meeting held by the AAM’s Health Committee and plans by AA local groups to hold ‘Soweto walks’ to raise funds for the ANC’s Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College (SOMAFCO) in Tanzania. A centrespread highlighted South Africa’s treatment of political prisoners and detainees, and the campaign resources produced by SATIS (Southern Africa the Imprisoned Society), IDAF (International Defence and Aid Fund) and the AAM. The issue also featured the AAM’s ‘Call to Action’ asking British people to demand that the government support UN mandatory economic sanctions against South Africa.

In its lead article AA News warned that the British Government was attempting to subvert moves led by the UN to establish a democratic government in Namibia. It featured new moves by British local authorities and church organisations to close their accounts with Barclays Bank and meetings planned by the AAM for British trade unionists. It also reported on the campaign to save the life of James Mange, a young freedom fighter sentenced to hang, and on new school boycotts by South African students. The issue highlighted the use of the unsafe contraceptive Depo Provera to restrict the birth rate of black South African women. It outlined AAM plans for an intensive campaign for an end to nuclear collaboration, freedom for Nelson Mandela and for a consumer boycott of South Africa in the last two weeks of June 1980. 

Under the headline ‘Mandela speaks to the world’ this issue reproduced a message from Nelson Mandela smuggled out from Robben Island, and reported on the showing of a new film, ‘Portrait of Nelson Mandela’. It highlighted the shooting of more than 100 protesters in Cape Town after renewed demonstrations by school students and action by striking workers in the Western Cape. It argued that the dramatic attack by ANC guerrillas on oil storage tanks at Sasolburg demonstrated the apartheid regime’s manpower crisis and inability to guard vital economic infrastructure. A feature on Dorothy Nyembe, serving a 15-year gaol sentence in Kroonstad women’s prison, asked readers to send her messages of support.

In its front page lead, this issue exposed a projected deal between BP and Anglo-American which would give South Africa access to North Sea oil. It carried the full text of Nelson Mandela’s message to the world and an interview with ANC leader Victor Matlou, kidnapped by South African police. A centrespread featured the war in Angola, where South Africa was fighting SWAPO guerrillas and supporting UNITA against the forces of the MPLA government. In the run-up to the British TUC annual meeting, civil servants union official Chris Easterling called on British workers to show solidarity with striking black workers in South Africa.

ANC freedom fighter James Mange’s reprieve from hanging was the front-page story in this issue. AA News called for intensified action in support of other political prisoners currently on trial in South Africa. It reported on a SWAPO conference held in Paris mobilising support from all over the world for international action to expel South Africa from Namibia. It also exposed child labour in South Africa and forced removals of black South Africans dumped in rural areas. 

In an exclusive interview with AA News, SWAPO President Sam Nujoma stressed the importance of SWAPO’s armed struggle in ending South Africa’s illegal occupation of Namibia. Abdul Minty analysed Western countries manoeuvres in the contact group set up by the UN to try to negotiate with South Africa on Namibia. AA News profiled the new South African ambassador to the UK and reported on material aid projects and action by British trade unionists in support of the Southern African freedom struggle.